Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Game Review: Dance Dance Revolution (PSone)

Previously on the SDP, it's been four long years, but my "Dance Dance Retrospective" mini-series has finally come to its bittersweet end. I guess there's nothing left to do now... but to do it all over again! This time, however, I'm going to review the different DDR games as I would any other work on this blog.

Dance Dance Revolution
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
  • Release: PlayStation, 2001
  • Genre: Music, 1-2 players
  • Save: Memory Card, 1 Block
  • Rarity/Cost: Moderate, US$5-15
Dance Dance Revolution is a game series that has been around for over fifteen years, and each new game to come along has brought along new content, whether in the form of new songs and/or new modes, to make each successive entry better than the last. Well, in quantifiable terms, anyway. But it had to start somewhere. For American gamers, those first impressions may have been forged in the arcades, or it may have been the first Dance Dance Revolution home game we got for the PlayStation, back in 2001. Does it still hold up today? Let's take it back to simpler times, before all the speed mods, Shock Arrows, and Justin Bieber licences, and find out!

Dance Dance Revolution, and indeed all of the series' home games, are fully playable with a regular controller, but to stay true to the arcade experience, are designed with a special floor-mat controller in mind. What's always bugged me about their official controllers is that there are no Square or Triangle buttons, however the American games all use Triangle to back out of menus. This was fine for the Japanese games, which instead used Circle to advance and X to back out, but apparently something got lost in translation. And it's not like there aren't PlayStation games sold abroad which use that setup; heck, even Konami's own Metal Gear Solid games do so! Fortunately, the Select button is also used to back out, but it feels weird using that button, tucked away in that upper-left corner. I am, however, thankful for a particular option unintuitively called "Dance Mode", which toggles the ability to use the four face buttons as well as the D-Pad to hit arrows.

Even in Double Mode, the game is just as playable with a controller as it is with a dance pad.
This particular DDR game runs on the same "engine" as DDR 3rdMIX. For those who neglected to take notes when reading its entry for Dance Dance Retrospective, that means all three difficulty levels (the easy "Standard", medium "Difficult", and hard "Expert") are available at any time from the start, without hiding behind any button codes. Likewise, all the songs in the game are selectable at any point during a game, as opposed to the first version in Japan which added or removed certain songs depending on whether it was your first round, second round, or otherwise. It also includes extra modes such as the Nonstop courses, sets of 4 songs each played back-to-back, the Workout mode, which records Calories burned as you play, and the multiplayer-exclusive Unison mode.

DDR's songlist is composed entirely of 26 selections from the first three Japanese games. Just shy of half of those are licenced songs, although there's nothing the average American listener would recognise, unless he or she were familiar with the DDR franchise already. The artists featured herein are all various flavours of European dance-music acts who had essentially no presence in the States until this game. If you're lucky, you'll here a familiar sample or cover version here or there -- the immortal riff from Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" is one such sample -- but that's it. And I'm not saying these are bad songs, either, but they have their own share of '90s Europop cheese. By my money, the standout tracks are the original songs made by Konami's own artists, which explore different musical genres, and generally provide a higher range of challenge in their charts.

Your choice of character doesn't matter in gameplay terms.
Upon starting a game, you have a choice of characters who will dance in the background during your game. There are quite a few of them -- 16 in all -- however, you can only select the male or female characters (8 of each) depending on whether your controller is plugged into port 1 or 2 of your PlayStation console. And even then, they don't alter the gameplay itself in any manner. Do they let you trigger different abilities to make your experience easier or more challenging? No, they're just another layer of background animation to distract you from the arrows you're supposed to be focusing on.

DDR has all the basic elements that make a Dance Dance Revolution game good, but not much on top of them. There's a certain simple charm in booting up a game and having all its content available to you at the start without even needing a Memory Card to save to, but that statement is a tad misleading because there is no content to unlock. The replay value in this game is limited to setting high scores for all the charts on all the songs, doing the same for all the nonstop courses, and perhaps starting a regular exercise program in Workout mode. While it may be a bad Dance Dance Revolution game, if only in terms of content, this introductory entry is not a bad video game.

And finally, in honour of Rerez, a YouTube gaming channel I discovered recently, I shall close out this review, and all other reviews going forward, with a list of the positive and negative qualities which stood out to me whilst playing, watching, reading, or listening to the work in question. (It's also a handy way of planning out my reviews before I start writing them.) As always, this shall be promptly followed up by the category grades and the final call. The more things change, the more they stay the same. So:

+ One of the first great examples of "exergaming" in a long time.
+ No need to unlock anything.
+ The inclusion of Beginner, Unison, Nonstop, and Workout modes.
+ Some of the step-charts have become unforgettably fun.

- A relatively small music selection, with nothing to unlock.
- Not many of the songs will be familiar to non-fans.
- Some of the music is cheesy -- "Let Them Move" especially.

Control: 5 Perfect!s out of 5
Design: 3 Perfects!s out of 5
Graphics: 3 Perfects!s out of 5
Sound: 4 Perfect!s out of 5
Value: 3 Perfect!s out of 5
The Call: 70% (C+)

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